IBM, Tommy Hilfiger and FIT Using AI to Collaborate and “Reimagine Retail”
The turnaround time in the fashion retail space is shrinking as the demand for the latest trend reaches fever pitch. Consumers demand the latest style in double quick time and because of the rate at which trends change, speed of delivery has become quintessential to retailers.
This was a design created by one of the FIT students using AI
Companies like Zara, H&M and Tommy Hilfiger themselves have had to restructure their entire supply chain processes recently to keep up with the market demands. The big retailers are now able to get the latest apparel into the markets within weeks of production but the majority of items take anywhere between six to twelve months which leads to a lot of lost sales.
To combat this, IBM, Tommy Hilfiger and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) have joined hands on a project called “Reimagine Retail”. According to Steve Laughlin, the general manager of IBM Global Consumer Industries, their aim is to speed up the supply chain process and aid the next generation of retailers with AI powered skills.
IBM gave access of their AI facilities to the FIT students for this project; including access to their natural language understanding and computer vision labs as well as several deep learning techniques trained specially with fashion data.
All these tools were then applied to 15,000 Tommy Hilfiger’s product images, along with approximately 600,000 publicly available images (taken from various fashion shows). Close to 100,000 patterns were taken from fabric sites. The resulting model then churned out tons of patterns, trends, silhouettes and prints that enabled the FIT students to create completely new designs by incorporating the trends of other designs into the ones already existing in the Tommy Hilfiger database.
The ‘Reimagine Retail’ project also uses social media listening as a tool to understand how previous products have been received and make changes in upcoming designs. Predicting which items are going to be in style in the coming months (and even years) has become critical for retailers and Tommy Hilfiger is determined to be at the front of the queue to enhance customer satisfaction.
Our take on this
This is only the beginning of AI in the retail space. There is a general concern that using tools will lead to the death of creativity but we disagree here. AI gives the designers the tools to reimagine designs, look at tons of patterns and fabrics that have been used previously and to come up with new trends.
The human mind cannot comprehend or retain thousands of images which is why this is an unprecedented step in fashion. And all this is done in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. This in turn also speeds up the supply chain process by getting products to the shelves in weeks to keep up with the consumer demands.